Given the challenges many SMEs are likely to face in the coming year, the quiet period between Christmas and New Year is an opportune time to reflect on the state of a business and consider where next.
Once there is a clear view of the way ahead it is also important to revisit the business’ marketing, consider what has worked and what has not and reset the marketing budget at a realistic level of spending.
One thing to remember is that marketing is not an optional extra. If potential clients or customers do not know who you are and what services or goods you offer they are clearly not going to be converted to buying from you.
This is particularly important to remember when trading during difficult economic conditions, when it is generally not advisable to cut the marketing budget.
How much money is available to spend on marketing?
This involves having a clear idea of how secure the business’ income is and this will depend on whether it has long-term contracts with clients and customers or not.
It is also important to know how much money needs to be retained to cover overheads and other expenses. For example, the business that has a 12-month contract with a supplier will need to ensure it has the money to fund the obligations, especially when it is prepaid.
Armed with this information and a careful analysis of the potential for increased demand for its services or goods a business will be in a better position to establish what cash may be available to spend on marketing, and what proportion of that it can afford to use for speculative marketing.
Limited duration versus enduring messages
While businesses might consider the cost and impact of promotion material and the medium for distribution, it is also worth considering how long a message lasts for.
Businesses should also monitor the cost and results of initiatives such as time and money spent on social media. Paid for advertising such as Google Adwords, Google’s Universal App Campaigns or Facebook advertising should be measured in terms of a return on the investment.
Much of this activity disappears from view very quickly in that the message put out today may be lost tomorrow – or even in a few seconds in the case of Twitter. However, that is not to say that there is no value to such marketing activity. With sustained effort it can be used to raise awareness of a business’ brand while not directly bringing results in terms of immediate sales. Such marketing therefore needs to support other initiatives.
On the other hand, spending on a printed membership journal or client leaflet, where information remains available for a long period could be seen as more durable marketing. However how many of these are used by clients to find your products or services? It could be argued that years ago online search engines replaced Yellow Pages and similar directories.
There is never an absolute guarantee of immediate results with any form of marketing since ultimately the choice to buy remains with the customer. Equally, there is a value in both limited duration and enduring messages.
The important point is to know exactly what cash options a business has and to decide how best to apportion marketing budget to get the optimal return on the investment.